Rabbit in Chile Sauce (Conejo en Adobo)

When we spotted rabbit at a local market recently, the first thing that came to mind was conejo en adobo. While many folks in the south might fry up a batch, a rich adobo is just the thing for a real feast.

Rabbit rates high on the health meter. By comparison to chicken, turkey, and pork it’s lower in fat, calories and cholesterol while packed with more protein. Every part – from the saddle to the legs – is all white meat. Domestic breed meat is so light in taste, everyone will love it.

You can make any adobo sauce your own, as others have over the centuries. I think the key is to start with rehydrating at least two types of dried chiles, sauteing the onion, and then creating an extra level of flavor with tomatillos on top of the tomatoes. In between, spices create structure that brings it all together. A homemade adobo sauce can take some time, but the reward is that it becomes your own personal signature. Make it a day ahead, let the flavors meld, and you may like it even better.

One last thing: The adobo sauce is quite tasty with pork, quail or other creatures of your choice.

Conejo en Adobo
Serves 4

To prepare the rabbit:
8 pieces rabbit (approximately 2¾ pounds)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon celery seeds

–Rinse the rabbit cuts and place in a pot of water, along with bay leaves and celery seeds.
–Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for about 60-90 minutes.
–Remove and pat pieces dry; reserve broth.

Adobo Sauce
6 guajillo peppers
Small handful of chile de arbol peppers (about 12 peppers – this is optional)
¼ onion, diced
2 tomatillos, cut in large chunks
3 Roma tomatoes
2-3 crushed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon celery seed

–Rehydrate guajillo and chile de arbol peppers in separate pots. (Leave guajillos intact/remove de arbol stems and de-seed if desired). Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour and let rest several hours until softened.)
–Saute onion until translucent, but not browned.
–Boil tomatillos (about 5 minutes) until softened; let cool enough to touch and cut in chunks.
–Remove rehydrated peppers, reserving liquid.
–In a food processor, add all the adobo ingredients, including spices.
–Add 3 cups broth and pepper (sparingly) liquids and continue processing to get a fluid mixture.
–Strain through a sieve into a large bowl.

Putting it all together:
–Pour the adobo sauce into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Let it bubble for about 30 minutes, adding broth or pepper liquid to keep it smooth. It should cook down to a nice semi-liquid consistency.
–Add oil to a skillet and heat.
–Add rabbit parts and let them brown.
–Place rabbit in the adobo sauce and simmer for another 20 minutes; turn as needed to coat all parts.
–Remove the rabbit parts and serve.

Plate the rabbit with as much or as little sauce as you like. (I kept it on the dry side in the above photo). Serve with a side of rice and corn tortillas. If you want a thicker sauce, use less liquid and add a batch of anchos to reduce a little of the heat.



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